Fisherman Builds DeLorean-Like Hovercraft, Hopes for Job at Google

Matt Riese is looking for a job at a technology company. His resume includes crab fisherman and maker of a hovercraft that looks like the car from “Back to the Future.”

His aquatic vehicle, designed to look like a DeLorean with its silver body and gull-wing doors that were so awesome in the 1980s, is nearly finished. Riese, 29, is making some last-minute adjustments to the craft’s mechanism, which pushes down air to keep the contraption floating above water. The San Francisco resident wants to take it out tonight during the second game of the World Series between the Giants and the Detroit Tigers, but he’s not sure it will be ready.

(Update: Reise wasn’t able to finish the hovercraft in time for last night’s game. He hopes to take it for a spin if the series returns to San Francisco next week, but because the Giants have won both games so far, that’s no certainty.)

Giants fans may recognize the vehicle from appearances on television earlier this year when Riese took it for a spin in McCovey Cove, the area behind AT&T Park where people in kayaks try to catch home-run balls. Cameras had caught Riese and his hovercraft, made out of Styrofoam and fiberglass, stalling and taking on water. Making something that withstands saltwater has proven to be difficult, but he wants to be out there to support his favorite team.

One of Riese’s motivations for building the hovercraft was to get his friends on the stadium’s Jumbotron, but by the time he finished, they were “busy having kids and getting married and stuff,” he said in an interview. While studying political science for his master’s degree from San Francisco State University, Riese started working on this project as part of a film he planned to shoot.

“I just wanted to do something big, something that would be kind of unbelievable,” Riese said. “It was just going to be a prop in this movie I wanted to make. It was like a surrealistic version of the end of my college career.”

In June 2010, he posted his plan for a hovercraft, along with a video of the prototype, on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. He raised $5,644. For Riese, the project wasn’t completely radical, considering his dad used to build cars from scratch. But not all of his friends and family could understand Riese’s ambitions.

“A lot of people don’t know what a hovercraft is,” he said. “My sister thought I was trying to build a spaceship.”

Crab fishing pays well, as he learned a year ago, but it’s not a pleasant life, Riese said. Google would be a nice place to work, he said. The company is developing self-driving cars, but Riese said he’s not particularly interested in building another vehicle. He expected the hovercraft project to take three months. Instead, it took two years.

“It’s really stressful making stuff like this because you never know if it’s going to work or when it’s going to work,” he said. “Now, I’m looking for a real job.”

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